Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The letter regarding 15 screaming middle schoolers causing problems on the Metro Red Line was sad in its conclusion [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16]. The writer thought that the "school staff should teach children how to behave on public transportation."

That incident occurred during rush hour, which leads me to think that it was not connected with a school-sponsored event.

Why is this something the school staff should teach? Doesn't anyone remember what parents are supposed to be for anymore?

Teaching manners, including behavior, starts at home. Parents, instead of taking responsibility for their children, are stepping back and letting the schools, states, churches and peers raise them.

Mary Shifflette

Prince Frederick

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to Linda Rabben's complaint about being trapped with "15 screaming middle schoolers" on the Red Line during evening rush hour [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16], I ask her to reevaluate the responsibility of those children's teachers for the misbehavior.

I find it laughable that Rabben suggests that "school staff should teach children how to behave on public transportation." The last I checked, I wasn't responsible for teaching children how to behave after school hours, though unfortunately it has become necessary in my teaching.

Teachers often witness outrageous behavior in their classrooms, including eye-rolling, name-calling, insubordination and bullying.

We work incredibly hard to teach and model appropriate behavior in between enriching our students' minds in a variety of subject areas.

I ask Ms. Rabben, where do parents fall into the equation? The last thing dedicated teachers need is another complaint lodged at them regarding the misbehavior of children (after school) relating to their job performance.

I ask Ms. Rabben why she fails to point her waving finger at parents or, more accurately, the children themselves? Middle school children are capable of listening and choosing to correct and modify their behavior when asked.

What's more disturbing than reading Ms. Rabben's letter was the apparent absence of an adult on the train speaking up and addressing those students about their behavior. Amazingly, communicating with children can be done respectfully and assertively.

I hope that Ms. Rabben is not a mother herself, for I fear her expectations of her children's teachers would be absolutely ridiculous.

Crissie Traugott

Jefferson, Frederick County

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read with interest and empathy the letter from Linda Rabben about being victimized by obnoxious, rowdy middle school students on a Red Line Metro train [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16]. I recently had a similar experience on a Metrobus.

When I boarded a bus at the Medical Center Metro station around 7 p.m. one recent weeknight, I could hear them before I even entered the bus -- a group of about 20 teenagers, both boys and girls -- engaged in a loud and profane argument over something. The noise was deafening, and the air blue from the foul language spewing from these young people.

To his credit, the bus driver did go to the rear of the bus to request that they quiet down, but his effort was futile. The noise continued as the bus made its way out of the Medical Center station and continued until I exited the bus near my home off Old Georgetown Road. As I left, I thanked the driver for trying to rectify the situation.

That was not the first time I have experienced such behavior on this bus route, but it is the first time I saw a driver address it directly. Unfortunately, there was not much else he could do.

I am sure he was loath to eject such a large group of children; they appeared to be of varying ages, but probably all were minors. I think he might have been considered irresponsible to put them off the bus before their intended destination, given their ages.

To call Metro police or the county police to address the situation would have delayed all of us from getting to our destinations and getting away from these obnoxious brats.

I don't know what Metro's policy is with regard to such situations occurring on buses, but I felt sorry for the driver as well as myself. I wish something could be done to ensure that this scenario does not repeat itself, but I am not optimistic.

Catharine E. Reeves


My sympathies. Metro says that if you feel threatened by unruly adolescents, you should try to contact, or have the driver contact, Metro Transit Police.

If it's intolerable, you might step off the bus and catch the next one. An inconvenience, yes, but you would at least be exerting some control over your plight. Otherwise, ignoring the rowdies might be the best approach, difficult as that may be.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After reading Linda Rabben's letter concerning the screaming middle school students on the Metro Red Line [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16], I felt an obligation to respond.

She stated that "school staff should teach children how to behave on public transportation, or schoolchildren should not be permitted to travel on Metro in unaccompanied groups."

First of all, I am not condoning the behavior of the students in any way. However, I do not believe it is the responsibility of the schools to teach children how to behave on public transportation.

Not once in Ms. Rabben's letter was responsibility asked of the parents of these children.

All too often, we forget that parents, not the schools, hold the largest amount of responsibility in a child's life.

As a District public school teacher, I can affirm that we strive to teach our students proper social skills, but those skills need to be reinforced at home.

Please remember that if parents decide their children should be using public transportation to return home from school, it is their responsibility to communicate rules and expectations.

After students are dismissed at 3:30 p.m., if parents have given permission for their children to return home on their own, schools cannot restrict those students from traveling on Metro in unsupervised groups.

Jennifer Yeck


I understand your point. Parents have primary responsibility, but there are all kinds of inadequate home situations for children. Seems as though going over some common-sense rules for behavior on Metro could be a useful thing for teachers to do.

Update on Arundel Projects

Here is an update on two of the largest state highway projects in Anne Arundel County:

(1) A new interchange at the junction of Routes 2 and 50 will provide easier access for vehicles traveling to and from the two roadways in the fast-growing Parole area.

Construction started in spring of 2003 and should be finished by the end of this year. The project is running a few months behind schedule because of inclement weather.

(2) New bridges on Rowe Boulevard over College Creek and Weems Creek, leading to the statehouse, are on schedule.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.